The B.S. was the least demanding (rather the equivalent of the old three-year Bachelor of English Literature of the Boydton era). The candidate must have graduated in the schools of pure and applied mathematics, natural history, natural philosophy, chemistry, and the one-year course of junior English (for which an introductory class was a prerequisite). The only choice left to the student in the program was between French or German. The B.S. degree was abandoned in 1888. Two programs led to the A.B., both containing science and Latin.
The requirements for the traditional Bachelor of Arts were essentially the same as the above, plus Greek and Latin (Latin, Greek, English, French or German, pure mathematics, moral philosophy and metaphysics, natural philosophy, and chemistry). The day was far off when the so-called liberal arts students would need to take a bare minimum of science. Those studies had always been a major component in the A.B. and were only gradually displaced by the introduction of courses allied to the other branches of learning already in the curriculum. Add a few more courses to the requirements for the A.B. and the program is that of the master's. (The M.A. required graduation with distinction (italicized in the catalog) in Latin, Greek, French, German, English, and pure mathematics, and proficiency in junior applied mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, and moral philosophy and metaphysics.) The master's represented more work, and work of a higher caliber, than the bachelor's. It did not represent, as it does today, advanced work in a specific field to prepare one for a scholarly career or a business skill.
Some of the schools represent innovation in the field of education generally. Most noticeable is the School of English, asserted to be the first in the South.
Although there had been some shadowy flirtations with teaching English in the 1830s, the novelty died out as Randolph-Macon followed the customs of other American colleges. The introduction of the curriculum of 1859 allowed experimentation and innovation. The key figure in the introduction of English was Professor Thomas R. Price, one of the original faculty at Ashland and a teacher of Latin. He found it impossible to teach knowledge of the ancient languages to boys and young men who knew not enough of their own language to receive it or apply it. It was irrational, absurd, almost criminal, for example, to expect a young man whose knowledge of English words and construction was scant and inexact, to put into English a difficult thought of Plato or an involved period of Cicero. In 1869 President James A. Duncan suggested to Price that he simply teach English. The course was in place in 1870. In the catalog of that year, the tone offers considerable evidence of shyness about the whole project, and indeed is rather defensive. The Trustees and the Faculty are profoundly convinced, that the opportunity of careful and exact study of our own language as an end in itself, is the greatest benefit that our College can bestow upon her sons. Thus, in doing this, they are helping to solve the much-mooted question of practical education, and are removing from the collegiate system the reproach that, both in England and in America, has of late brought upon the Colleges well-merited censure.
The School of English offered five courses. The preparatory course (intended for such young men as, from lack of preparation, are not yet fit to attend the higher classes), included grammar and spelling. Introductory was parts of speech, inflections, and laws of syntax, as well as reading and composition. (One of the textbooks was Macaulay's Biographical Sketches.) The junior class saw still more composition and grammar, but here Shakespeare was required reading; the intermediate class began a study of Anglo-Saxon, ''as the indispensable basis of English Grammar, and to the History of the English Literature. Finally, there was a senior class, which was Gothic and the Historical and comparative Grammar of English. The School of English was very popular with 195 students in 1873, 15 more than its nearest rival, mathematics. Price left Randolph-Macon in 1876 to teach classics at the University of Virginia. His loss to the college came as much from bad treatment as from a desire to return to his alma mater. He had been paid $726 between June and December 1875, and apparently nothing after that. The treasurer's report for the academic year 1875-76 shows that $1,749.98 was applied to Prof's salaries, and even that money had to be borrowed from the Merchants National Bank. Price's school was taken over by Robert Emory Blackwell, A.M., and graduate of the college (1874). (Blackwell would be elected president of the college in 1902 and would remain in office until 1938.) Price's colleagues and students carried the innovation to other schools. James A. Harrison, who left Randolph-Macon in 1876, also introduced English at Washington and Lee, saying it should be on par with the bugs and birds of our Museum. William Malone Baskerville, a student of both Harrison and Price, went from Randolph-Macon to Leipzig University in Germany for a Ph.D. Baskerville carried on important work in English at Vanderbilt University. Price himself played a key role in the introduction of English into the schools of the university of Virginia in 1882.
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Reprinted from Professor James Scanlon's Randolph-Macon College: A Southern History 1825-1967